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English Language Education Video Game

 
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Would you use eductional games as part of your syllabus?
Yes! This would be a fun and productive way for students to practice English communication
100%
 100%  [ 5 ]
No. Games are for fun, not study. Kids play them too much already anyway.
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Total Votes : 5

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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2005 11:29 pm    Post subject: English Language Education Video Game Reply with quote

My associates and I are interested in creating a video game for English language learning. I am looking for feedback from teachers to determine whether the project is worthwhile, and also get ideas that we could incorporate in this application.

Until educational games haven't been very successful. This is mostly due to, as game industry veteran Brenda Laurel put it


Quote:
"I can sum up educational games in one word - and that word is... CRAP!"



However, in recent years there has been increasing interest in this field. The US government, most notably the military, has been putting hundreds of millions of dollars into developing computer game simulations for training and recruiting. Other governments and the United Nations, on a smaller scale, are joining the scene. (here is a recent United Nations game as an example http://www.food-force.com/).

Quote:
While decidedly in the birthing stage, the results so far show a genre of hyper-growth...All of this means that the next five years will be an incredible ride for the serious games space.
-Henry Jenkins MIT




Here is a very brief and early proposal of what we intend to create. It is a multiplayer video game in which students could chat and collaborate with other users in English and improve their English skills through performing quests in a 3d game world. The reason choosing the RPG genre is that RPGs inherently provide a lot of reading practice in any case. It would be targetted at learners from teens to adults:


Quote:
ESL Role Playing Game



The concept:



This is a role playing game for intensive practice as part of an extensive reading programme. The game will be based on a major reading programme franchise, and can be used as supplement or as an integral part of that programme. The game can be controlled and monitored from a server. Data collected in the server can be used to monitor individual and collective student progress. Vocabulary in the game is kept to the level of the reading programme.



The game is controlled and interacted with by speech recognition software. Movement and actions are controlled by a command and control grammar, and conversations with other players and NPCs are handled by a dictation grammar and use of the keyboard, however only words in the database can be used. NPCs will have AI and grammar engines for interacting with players.





The Game



The game is set in a world that is a super-future of our own, which was destroyed by war and “re-awakened” with humans alongside fantasy creatures like dwarves ,elves, pixies and so on. Throughout this world, ancient texts (parts of reading programme books) are hidden. Players quest for these documents, and by collecting parts of the books, reading them (speech recognition) and putting the parts together in the right order, they can level up and gain new powers.



An evil magician (or some such thing) has been turning cute furry animals into monsters. Parts of the books are guarded by these monsters. The residents of this world, aware of their past, are against the use of weapons and violence. The monsters need to be defeated to turn them back into animals again. Monsters are defeated by silly things like beating them around with bread sticks, or casting spells on them like “strawberry explosion” in order to avoid complaints from concerned parents about violence. When players are defeated, they are re-spawned, probably from a location in the town.


Please add your feedback. Let me know if such a game would be useful to you, your hopes, concerns and expectations for such an application.


I would also like to know:
Do you use PCs or Macs at your school?

What level of violence do you consider acceptable for an educational game:
1) None whatsoever
2) Simulated violence: paint guns, pies in the face, water squirts
3) Non graphic violence: fight with weapons, but no blood/gore/suffering. Opponents might be like robots or fantasy creatures that fade away.
4) Graphic Violence: Heads rolling, blood splatters. It's just pretend
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1366
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2005 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm afraid I won't be much help answering the question you have, since I teach adults and I wouldn't use such a product in my classroom. However, I found your post particularly interesting because I've been playing a MMORPG for almost 7 years now. My kid started to play it when he was 11. It's how he learned to type Wink Now that game, which is in English, has a sister game that is being developed in Europe. You can currently choose to play it in French or German (the npc speech, etc., will change according to your choices.) Most of the players speak German and English. My son (who is now almost 1Cool is studying German, and spends a lot of time using on-line dictionaries to translate what people say, and spends a lot of time saying, "Ah, we learned that in class last night."

The game was originally only written for Macs, so PC users have to either use the new beta java client, or a Mac emulator to play. The game is 2-D, with speech bubbles that show when you type something like it would show in a cartoon. The creatures you hit have a red X to show a blood spatter. It is not graphic at all, and includes fighters and healers, and a good sense of community. There are a lot of European and Japanese players whose English has improved since they started playing. Anyway the name of the U.S. game is ClanLord, by Delta Tao Software (http://www.deltatao.com/clanlord/index.html) The European game, which is now in open alpha, is called Arindal
(http://www.arindal.com/)

Good luck to you.

Lorikeet
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Archbishop Marcincus



Joined: 14 May 2005
Posts: 2
Location: The Vatican

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 5:16 pm    Post subject: Your question presupposes too much! Reply with quote

Hi, it sounds like a nice idea!

I've been teaching for 5 years now and at first I was quite resistant to using computers for teaching. Most people associate them, quite rightly, with games, the internet or work related stuff. The idea of using them as an educational resource is a relatively recent one and most people, especially the teachers that I've met are pretty ignorant of the potential that computers and the internet can offer to people who want to learn a foreign language.

I was initially won over by a program that I used to learn Spanish (Tell Me More) with spectacular results. It's not suited to everyone, however, and I view computer assisted learning as still another resource amongst many to choose from. Of course, the more we have to choose from, the better and the more likely we'll be able to find teaching/learning resources to suit everybody.

There are a lot of resources out there, most of which I've found unsatisfactory, but it's well worth sifting through them to find some real gems. I think the real problem is not coming up with the ideas and creating the software in the first place, it's convincing teachers to learn how to use them and introduce their students to them. In my experience, the demand for computer assisted learning is there amongst the students who have some very high expectations and are very willing to try new things. It's up to EFL teachers to keep up with the times and satisfy that demand, but of course, that means a lot of extra work in finding and learning to use these great new resources.

At the moment, I'm looking into developing classroom or extra-curricular applications for using the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) game on PC. It has the advantages of being very popular and well known, drawing the students in initially and making it very accessible, and also of being a language based game aimed at the lay-person. There are clear objectives and a great sense of satisfaction to a student or group of students who can solve the crimes and it's the kind of activity that will really stick in the minds of the students, helping them to remember a lot of the language they've learned: It's good old fashioned task based learning with a very strong contextual basis!

One of the downsides to using ready-made games is that they tend to be made for the American market and have an unsavoury obsession with criminality and violence which I think many European students, especially adults, find distasteful.

Your game sounds like it could be a winner if you can get the playability/learning balance right. Remember your working in a medium where there are some exceptionally high production values in a multi-billion dollar business. You'll have to be pretty slick to convince youngsters to play your game!

Good luck! And I sincerely hope you succeed.
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joshua2004



Joined: 20 Nov 2004
Posts: 264
Location: Torreon, Mexico

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel the game must have vocab acquisition AS PART of the action in the game. For instance, since it is a role playing game(which is ideal!) the vocab acquistion MUST come from the interacations in the game: player 1 has to follow commands from creature 1 in performing some sort of task such as steps in casting a spell. The important thing is that the language acquisition comes from ACTUAL USE of language, understanding and communicating. As you said the main problem with educational games is that they are crap. My experience with various educational games is how they present the educational content. By assuming that the material is boring and they must make it interesting by providing what some call "window dressing", it only makes the player feel like the material has little value since he or she has to be enticed into digesting it. I don't mean to sound negative since I feel that there are great possiblities with what you are doing. I want to point you in the right direction.
Almost all foreign language programs are based on learning the "rules" of a language. Research repeatedly shows that people learn a language by understanding what they hear and what they read, not by learning rules. If you can create a game where the player is able to follow along and along the way be acquiring language by understanding what is going on around her or him, you will have a product teachers and students will like and use because it is teaching language, it isn't trying to coerce the learning, and it is entertaining.
I look forward to seeing your progress!
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skelso



Joined: 01 Feb 2005
Posts: 15
Location: Boise State University, Idaho, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2005 9:14 pm    Post subject: Ed. Game Poll Reply with quote

I don't think my answer is the kind you are looking for, but here goes. First, I don't lean toward electronic learning for several reasons. Second, even if I did wish to use an educational electronic game, I avoid anything with monsters, witches, spells, etc... Violence along the lines of Road Runner/Wiley Coyote is fine. Good luck with your project
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leonsunwukong



Joined: 13 Nov 2003
Posts: 2
Location: China

PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:44 am    Post subject: sesame street interactive games Reply with quote

Hi,

This probably isn't the answer you're looking for either, but I'd just like to throw in my 2 cents.

Once Koreans learn about Sesame Street's FREE interactive education game website, all other English educational game websites will go out of business.

I for one, love anything that is FREE. BUT, it's not just that it is FREE, the quality is paramount. The whole Sesame Street program is designed by early childhood education specialists, and follows state of the art theory/techniques.

My son, who is now five, has been playing Sesame Street games now for two years max, and his English (and computer) skills have improved tremendously. Of course, it helps when your dad speaks English in the home to reinforce what one is learning. But, I still feel that the quality of the software is tremendously excellent. My son will spend hours at a time learning English (and other) skills, such as matching, following directions, etc.

That brings me to my next point. It's not just about learning English. It's an ecclectic approach, which attempts to improve many basic skills that children need. It also deals with EQ issues as well.

I personally will do everything in my power to promote Sesame Street's website, because of the quality and because it is FREE to ALL!

Sincerely,
Leon
Webmaster
http://efl.htmlplanet.com
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emile



Joined: 31 May 2004
Posts: 144
Location: SE Asia

PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2005 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From what I know, most computer games have a high degree of gender bias; that is, it is difficult to come up with a game that appeals to both sexes - with 'The Sims' as a notable exception.

I reckon this is something that you should keep in mind when developing the game.
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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't been back here for quite a while, and I was surprised at the number and quality of your replies! I take it that all of you are English teachers, and your opinion is highly appreciated.

Quote:
Almost all foreign language programs are based on learning the "rules" of a language. Research repeatedly shows that people learn a language by understanding what they hear and what they read, not by learning rules. If you can create a game where the player is able to follow along and along the way be acquiring language by understanding what is going on around her or him, you will have a product teachers and students will like and use because it is teaching language, it isn't trying to coerce the learning, and it is entertaining.


That is the idea. To use the computer game as a non-linear extensible application for the learner to explore and acquire language in their own way and at their own pace.



Quote:
First, I don't lean toward electronic learning for several reasons. Second, even if I did wish to use an educational electronic game, I avoid anything with monsters, witches, spells, etc... Violence along the lines of Road Runner/Wiley Coyote is fine.


Teaching is a political minefield, and I think an application designed to be used by educators would have to be more careful not to upset them than their students. Cerainly, some popular elements of video entertainment would have to be toned down or excluded. A description of the contents would need to be provided for concerned parents and teachers, even if it were targeted at adult students.

There is a fair range of opinion about what would be suitable content for an educational video game. I have done some surveys regarding violence, and so far it seems most people are comfortable somewhere within the range of pie fights and non-bloody cartoon violence.

Quote:
From what I know, most computer games have a high degree of gender bias; that is, it is difficult to come up with a game that appeals to both sexes - with 'The Sims' as a notable exception.


This is true, though I don't think intentional. One of the most important reasons I think this is, is because it is technically very difficult to make a video game that appeals to women. It is eaier to make a game about shooting things up, fighting or racing than it is to create the kind of social stimulus that most women prefer. With greater processing power and the internet, more sophisticated games that appeal to women are becoming more feasable. Certainly, The Sims demonstrates that it makes good sense to create games that girls want to play, too.


Quote:
One of the downsides to using ready-made games is that they tend to be made for the American market and have an unsavoury obsession with criminality and violence which I think many European students, especially adults, find distasteful.


Conversely, Europeans are generally more thick skinned about sex than Amercans. In any case, for a game-based educational title, trying not to offend people while maintaining the fun is the goal (quite a challenge, too).

The reason games (and most things) are made for the American market is simple business sense. It's the biggest market.

Thanks also to Lorikeet and leonsunwukong for your experiences with games as educational tools.


I will post again soon with news about our own development and to ask your opinion again.
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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



We have just released a small application for testing the feasibility and possibilities of using speech recognition in gmae-based learning. Please download it and have a go.

This is a very simple game using automatic speech recognition. Try to read the highlighted sentences, either in one shot or in smaller chunks. The more words the computer hears, the higher your score! The better your pronunciation and fluency the more the computer will pick up.
While this was designed with game-based language applications in mind, it has also been suggested that this type of application could be useful for people with speech impediments.

I have posted in on one of my websites: http://www.my-virtual-classroom.com

Or you can just download it directly from this link: http://www.my-virtual-classroom.com/downloads/MagicBookDemo.msi

This program is freeware. We would really appreciate your feedback. You can post here, PM me or send e-mail.
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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Further to my last post. The Magic Book Demo requires that your PC is speech enabled. This isn't hard to do. Take a look at the instructions on my site: http://www.my-virtual-classroom.com


Edit: The latest upload has a multi-lingual installation, and it also checks your system for everything that is needed and prompts you to download anything that is missing.
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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have been pursuing this. Here are some of the pedagogical aspects pf the project. I hope some of the teachers here might comment.

Quote:

The purpose of this software is as an educational tool made enjoyable and motivating by basing it within the semiotic domain of a contemporary computer role playing game. As such the pedagogical aspects are paramount, but should not detract from the enjoyment of the activity.

This application is designed to be stand-alone with optional instructor support. The student can play through on his own, picking up new English vocabulary and expressions, and if there is an instructor, can also receive assistance in the form of related lessons or guidance.

RPGs are the ideal semiotic domain to host a game based language learning application by their very structure. They require very little specialised knowledge to be able to play, they use systems of “verbs” and “objects” to determine actions, and progression is based on goals and learning objectives.

For an RPG game, the challenge is more intellectual than reflex based, and most of the interaction is simple activities involving mouse and keyboard (and in this case, microphone) that most computer users are familiar with. This makes them accessible to a wide demographic, including people who do not consider themselves gamers.

RPG worlds are populated by an environment of objects. Objects are any items that can be interacted with. These objects are interacted with by verbs, sometimes in combination with an item....


I'll just give you that much for a start and see if I can catch anyone's attention for something other than political concerns.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1366
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2006 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm curious to know if the RPG is individual (an individual reacting with the environment) or whether different individuals can play together and interact with each other.
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A.Russell



Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Initially we looked at making it multiplayer, however we decided against it. Budget is one imprtant consideration, the other was a gameplay question of how to manage quests in a multiplayer environment.

The software will communicate with a server and analyse player progress.
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